Defending the Faith: 2 legal tests of Joseph Smith's integrity

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  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    Sept. 18, 2014 5:29 a.m.

    It isn't as if the criminal justice system was in any way, shape, or form fair and impartial during this time, especially towards the Latter-Day Saints. Even if Joseph was found guilty of anything, it doesn't change the fact or at least negate the possibility that he was wrongfully accused. The government was never on his side, nor on the side of any other members of the Church. All the more reason why it is so astonishing and confusing that blind patriotism is so common among the Saints today.

  • VMan22 Sandy, UT
    Aug. 26, 2014 3:47 p.m.

    Smarter than God? How smart is that? I assume that many people have integrity but technology keeps them in-check... how would Joseph Smith survive with the kind of scrutiny we have today?

  • goosehuntr Tooele, UT
    Aug. 19, 2014 3:20 p.m.

    The Book of Mormon is witness enough. There is no one who could have fabricated a work like that. And the power it has in changing lives for the better is rivaled only by the Bible. Both hold great power to transform lives if the principles they teach are applied. If you want to know if a cake is really as good as people say or claims that have been made, follow the recipe and consume the results. But, that is an individual journey. Joseph had a work to do at an appointed time. His work was no more important than the work of those who prepared a country and a way for that work to emerge and blossom. William Tyndale comes to mind for me. What a pillar of courage and a preparer of the way for of my hero's for certain. Anyway, God bless ya'll!!

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 19, 2014 10:46 a.m.

    To "Schnee" look up Antonio Montezinos who around 1644 found a group of Indians in Colombia that spoke Hebrew and claimed to of the tribe of Reuben. In Puerto Rico the explorer Ponce de Leon tells about how the Indians there recited some Jewish creeds in Hebrew. There are more Spanish explorers that relate similar encounters with Hebrew speaking natives.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    Aug. 18, 2014 11:12 a.m.

    @Sharrona ... Yes, but research the character of the Prophet's accuser and decide if he deserved a dime's worth of credibility.

  • AerilusMaximus Berryville, VA
    Aug. 17, 2014 9:36 p.m.

    @ Karen R.

    "Why is it that the same god that is purportedly all-powerful can't seem to write or publish his own books? Without fail he has needed an assist from a faulty human."

    We are each given different experiences in life to help us to grow. You don't think compiling scripture helped the prophets understand / remember them better?

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    Aug. 17, 2014 5:09 p.m.

    Thanks, Church member. I appreciate you saying so. I always like to hear what you have to say, too. I don't recall the content of the first post of yours that I saw, but I remember what I thought about it: "Now here's a church member that sees things pretty clearly!" And the view is indeed grand. So amazing...

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Aug. 17, 2014 3:22 p.m.

    RE: Moontan, JS character. June 30, 1842, Francis Higbee gave a sworn statement that "Joseph Smith told him that John C. Bennett could be easily put aside or drowned, and no person would be the wiser for it". HofC, Higbee was present at a meeting of *dissenters on April 28, 1844.

    On May 1, 1844, Higbee filed a legal complaint in the Fifth Judicial District of Illinois, suing Smith for slander, with requested damages of five thousand dollars. Smith was killed before the legal suit was resolved.

    RE: Pops, we are literally his children? Having predestinated(Christians) us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.(Eph 1:5)
    Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy..(Romans 9:14-15)

    ANALOGICAL FIGURES FROM HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS, The “Fatherhood of God” the parental imagery is even applied to God in the meteorological aspects of creation – both fatherly and motherly language is used in Job 38.28,29, “Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice. See john 4:24

  • Church member North Salt Lake, UT
    Aug. 17, 2014 11:32 a.m.

    To Karen R

    I just wanted to thank you for your posts. I agree with you 100%. The magic of reality is so much more amazing, interesting, and true than anything religion teach you. My wife and I just left the religion of our childhood after doing years of research. We have never truly ben happier. Reality > superstition.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Aug. 17, 2014 11:06 a.m.


    Your statement seems to indicate that you think you somehow know what happens when we die. I would propose that NOBODY knows, and that any guesses would be pure speculation. Unless one has died, they cannot truly KNOW what happens when we die. So it really isn't an argument that we can get into with any surety. It can't be proven either way, so it is only opinion at best.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Aug. 17, 2014 11:03 a.m.


    The fact that you think that because a few thousand, or even million, intelligent people believe in Mormonism means that it must be true is somewhat perplexing. For every Mormon on the planet, there are roughly 99 non-Mormons. So do you want me to start naming all of the brilliant Catholics, Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and Baptists? That premise doesn't make sense, mainly because even the well read and intelligent can believe something that another of equal or greater intelligence does not believe

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 16, 2014 7:47 p.m.


    "The Spanish monks found tribes in the Caribbean that spoke Hebrew, some tribal Kings throughout central and South America claimed lineage to Israel and knew all of the Old Testament stories. "

    That's just completely false.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    Aug. 16, 2014 7:40 a.m.

    @ Redshirt1701 and Pops

    Reward? Purpose? This may be the human perspective, but it seems presumptuous to assume it's THE perspective. It's a big world out there and we're but a small part. Besides, I don't need either to be moral. Research suggests what I've often intuitively felt - that morality is genetically based; programmed into us because it enhances survival.

    So I think my moral disposition came with the package. No celestial prompting or reward required. Of course you can argue that a god placed it there, but this can't be proven.

    Which happens to be the best argument religion has to support its extraordinary claims. "You can't prove it isn't true!" This seems ludicrously weak considering the alleged import: the fate of our very "souls."

    If you desire certainty, try reality. It'll knock your socks off with its wonders.

    BTW, Redshirt, you asked Tyler D. how he knows religion is invented. The DN is running an article that reports there are over 4,000 religions in the world. According to many believers – including the LDS - every one of these religions is invented except their own.

    Aug. 15, 2014 9:31 p.m.

    UT Brit wrote: "Also our few years on this Earth decides our eternal future. Gods plan was for a fraction of his children to get back to him, the rest get to suffer regret and remorse for the rest of their infinite lives. Does not sound like a very good plan to me."

    Straw horse - that isn't the plan. I expect that the majority of God's children will end up in kingdoms of glory. The issue is this: how much glory do you want? Are you willing to pay the price necessary to receive it?

    Craig Clark wrote: "The idea that this life is meant to test us sounds like God created us for his amusement."

    You missed a more plausible motive, which is that we are literally his children and he is giving us the opportunity to become as he is. That requires becoming free of corruption and becoming incorruptible, neither of which is possible without the Savior's Atonement and our best efforts, and neither of which is possible if God were to make himself known to everyone indiscriminately and eliminate our moral agency in the matter of choosing whether to obey God.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 15, 2014 12:10 p.m.

    To "Tyler D" so you are saying that you don't know what the origin of religion really is, but will deny the truth despite the evidence.

    One interesting thing that you mention in the creation. If you read the book of Genesis, it lays out the exact steps that the modern science states occurred to create the earth. The original Genesis texts do not say the Earth was created in 7 days, but was created in 7 periods of time.

    The Jews were given strict guidelines on cleanliness and washing their hands. Because of that Jews have been spared from plagues and death from infections.

    The amazing thing is the amount of evidence that atheists dismiss or ignore because it proves them wrong. From an LDS standing, the Book of Mormon is true and there is archeological evidence to confirm that. The Spanish monks found tribes in the Caribbean that spoke Hebrew, some tribal Kings throughout central and South America claimed lineage to Israel and knew all of the Old Testament stories. The scientific evidence that proves the Book of Mormon is there if you look for it.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    Aug. 15, 2014 11:55 a.m.

    Compared to most of the Biblical prophets/leaders appointed by God, each of whom deserve respect and honor, Joseph's character was almost pristine. Does this fact in itself prove his claims true? Not at all. But it does prove his non-LDS Christian critics are living in glass houses when they attack his character.

  • SLCWatch Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 15, 2014 11:43 a.m.

    Like I said jousting will get us no where. You made more false assumptions in your response not to mention initial statements than I could respond to. Having a mind like a steel trap doesn't do any good if it's always closed.

  • Dan Maloy Enid, OK
    Aug. 15, 2014 11:16 a.m.

    Article quote: "With a single exception, scholars agree that Joseph was never convicted of any of the criminal charges that were often filed against him by his enemies. In several of those cases, in fact, he was officially cleared of wrongdoing. The sole possible outlier is an 1826 trial in South Bainbridge, New York, in which a sworn complaint was brought before Justice Albert Neely alleging Joseph to be a “disorderly person” — a misdemeanor under the relevant laws. Some have claimed that he was convicted of the charge, which proves him guilty of being an “imposter.”"


    If someone wants to claim that Joseph Smith was an "imposter" because he was accused of being a "disorderly person", knock yourself out.

    In other words, people can, and do, claim things all the time, but that doesn't mean that it is true.

  • mufasta American Fork, UT
    Aug. 15, 2014 9:58 a.m.

    Great article. Thank you.

  • UT Brit London, England
    Aug. 15, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    @Craig Clark

    Also our few years on this Earth decides our eternal future. Gods plan was for a fraction of his children to get back to him, the rest get to suffer regret and remorse for the rest of their infinite lives. Does not sound like a very good plan to me.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 15, 2014 9:54 a.m.

    @Redshirt1701 – “how do you know that religion was invented?”

    Call it an educated guess - one based on knowing some history and how often religion gets it wrong (e.g., creation myth, geocentric universe, no evidence of flood, tower of babel myth – really, the list is endless).

    @SLCWatch – “Your premise presupposes every one would choose to do good things of their own free…”

    Well sure, many will do bad things and that’s what we have prisons for, but most people will choose to be good citizens because they will be happier doing so. And I would also submit that it is next to impossible (psychopaths notwithstanding) to be truly happy by harming your fellow man.

    And your view presupposes that religion is doing some real work here, but ask - would you rather live in Sweden (most atheistic country) or Pakistan (most religious) or Honduras (most Christian)?

    And can you explain why a religion like, say, Buddhism (which is atheistic with respect to anthropomorphic gods and does not believe in personal afterlives) produces so many happy people dedicated to lives of service?

    Reached comment limit…

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Aug. 15, 2014 9:50 a.m.

    RE: KJR,Mormon Scholars,Vs Augustine, Aqiunas, Calvin ,Luther ,Jonathan Edwards. Only 5 Christian(reformed) theologians.

    RE: Pops: “We know that in the laws of nature (something Evangelicals would say was introduced in the creation) that something cannot come from nothing. So Mormons need to answer “where did the pre-existing natural materials come from that God used to create?” And I would follow that question with “if they were created, why aren’t we worshiping ‘their creator?” William Lane Craig,
    For in him we live an move and have our Being...(Acts 17:28) Creation is dependent on God for it’s very existence. Creation ex nihlio.

    RE: Apostasy, The Apostles did not maintain any .O.T. pattern of polygamy and they and the early church condemned it.
    Paul,” Honor your Father and Mother”[not mothers/polygamy],which is the first commandment with a promise. Eph 6:2,3.
    1. Justin Martyr (c.160) rebukes the Jews for allowing polygamy: "2. Irenaeus (c.180) condemns the Gnostics for polygamy: " 3. Tertullian (c.207) I.-Marriage Lawful, But Not Polygamy. For Adam was the one husband of Eve, and Eve his one wife, one woman.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 15, 2014 9:11 a.m.

    The idea that this life is meant to test us sounds like God created us for his amusement. It’s such a comical notion that it sounds more like a device of human invention by power-driven men seeking to control weaker human beings.

  • SLCWatch Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 15, 2014 9:05 a.m.

    @Tyler D.

    I won't joust with you because it's pointless. Nothing would come from it. But consider your last statement: "What about the simple love of the game?".

    The point of the movie "The Thomas Crown Affair" was that bank robbery was a challenge so he did it "for the love of the game" not because he needed the money. Your premise presupposes every one would choose to do good things of their own free will rather than filling our prisons with pedophiles, perverts and rapists.

    You will need more than a love of the game to live a life that is beautiful to anyone outside of yourself.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 15, 2014 8:44 a.m.

    To "Tyler D" how do you know that religion was invented? Do you have the capability of witnessing past events?

    Life, like everything, has a purpose. Without the knowledge of eternal nature of man, morality becomes relative. If once you die, that is it, why have a funeral? Cemeteries just take up valuable land that could be put to better use than as a place to decompose bodies. However, if what the LDS church teaches is correct, then cemeteries are just temporary holding places for bodies until they resurrect.

    But it isn't a game if there are no rules and no goals to meet, what is the point?

  • Light and Liberty St. George/Washington, UT
    Aug. 15, 2014 8:39 a.m.

    Tyler: I serious doubt your sincerity! I do not doubt, however, that any book, unbiased or not, is going to answer your insincere question.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 15, 2014 8:23 a.m.

    @Redshirt1701 – “Your reward is the same no matter how you live your life.”

    Boy, have you hit the nail on the head in terms of identifying why religion was invented in the first place (i.e., to provide comforting stories to alleviate our fear of death and the unknown).

    As far as life having no meaning unless this is all just a big game show where, depending on how we play, we either get an eternal barcalounger or and eternal torture chamber; why does life have to have any cosmic meaning especially one so anthropomorphic?

    What is it about human happiness and flourishing (and helping your children and grandchildren achieve the same) that is not enough for you?

    Feeling like life is meaningless or even dreadful without the idea of God or an afterlife is like not enjoying the game of tennis unless you’re in the Wimbledon finals. And this analogy becomes all the more apt if we imagine the fans in the stadium as invisible (like heavenly observers) and the fame & glory of winning to go on forever.

    What about the simple love of the game?

  • loraleechoate Logan, UT
    Aug. 15, 2014 7:49 a.m.


    I think that is entirely possible. I do not think Mormonism, Christianity, Atheism, etc. fits every one person. If you find your personal belief after questioning, cool.

    My personal mantra in regards to religion specifically:

    I respect those who find their personal truth and then take that truth and do positive things with it. I don't care if you believe as I do, but don't waste energy and time on something as negative as tearing down the beliefs of others.

    (But then, I am truly one of those people who truly wishes the whole world could hug and drink a Coke singing on top of a mountain. ;0 )

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 15, 2014 7:45 a.m.

    To "Karen R." taking on atheism is a sad thing. What is the point in living a good life if no matter how you live your life you end up being buried in the ground. Your reward is the same no matter how you live your life.

    Now, within the LDS church, you not only gain the knowledge that there is something beyond this life, but that you, your spouse, and your children will be a family forever. It is your choice to live worthy of that reward or not.

    As for bad things happening, the scriptures address that. Bad things happen typically for 2 reasons. Either because those people have been making bad choices so they now have to suffer the consequences or else people suffer so that their suffering will stand in judgment against their oppressors after this life.

    If a murderer was prevented from killing somebody, then how can they be punished for murder?

  • Justin Orem, Ut
    Aug. 15, 2014 7:27 a.m.

    It's unfortunate that Madsen's article appears in condensed form in the book. The full article, available online (most accessible on the USU website), contains some interesting historical details about the Edward and Margaret Lawrence family. John Taylor and Almon Babbitt introduced most of the family members to the church in Canada. After Edward died, the oldest children, Maria (17) and Sarah (14), opted to nominate Joseph Smith in 1841 to be the guardian for them and their younger siblings, rather than their stepfather (Margaret married Josiah Butterfield in December 1840) or uncle. On May 11, 1843, Joseph Smith was sealed to Maria and Sarah. In early 1844, Joseph Smith began arrangements to transfer the guardianship to John Taylor. This transfer was never realized, however. In September 1844, Margaret and her two teenage sons petitioned the court for Almon Babbitt to be appointed to be guardian for the five minor Lawrence children. Almon Babbitt married Maria as his plural wife in January 1846. She later died in Nauvoo while giving birth to a son, who also died. Margaret, who separated from her Josiah Butterfield in 1846, and her remaining seven children, including Sarah, subsequently emigrated to Utah.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    Aug. 15, 2014 6:21 a.m.

    @ Pops

    I asked this question as a child. I wondered, if our god was so powerful and loved us so much, why would he deliberately leave so many out and never give them the chance to make this choice you speak of? And why would he make such a mess of his message, virtually ensuring that it would get distorted and misunderstood? Children and their families were dying and going through horrific things because he handled this so poorly.

    And so I asked the question and I got an answer similar to yours. And I thought then what I think now: This isn't true. This is an excuse. No deity worth worshipping would place helpless children in danger.

    I find it very liberating to be atheistic. My life truly becomes my own, my responsibility. It is very empowering. And there are no more excuses. Things aren't the way they are because it's some kind of test. They're the way they are because we make it so. Which means we have the power to change them (no god required). Now that's awesome.

    Aug. 14, 2014 7:13 p.m.

    @Tyler D

    The Joseph Smith Papers project is not concerned solely with autobiographical writings of Joseph Smith. In fact, I expect that only a tiny percentage of the documents in the study were intended to be autobiographical in nature; rather, they shed light on Joseph Smith and the events surrounding the Restoration based on actual surviving documents rather than speculation or calumny.

    @Karen R

    The question you should be asking is not why God can't author his own works, as if it creates some kind of logical contradiction that necessitates disbelief; but rather why he chooses not to do so.

    The answer is simple. A major purpose of placing us here on earth is to allow us to choose whether to follow Him or reject Him of our own free will. If He revealed himself indiscriminately to everyone, we all would be compelled to believe in Him. Because He does not, we are free to choose. But that choice requires faith. Not blind faith, but a personal "scientific method" of trying things (e.g. obeying His commandments and seeking Him in prayer) and judging the results.

  • KJR Alpine, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 5:04 p.m.

    I would ask people that want to dismiss Joseph Smith's claims and Mormonism to consider one thing: Do you really think that the hundreds of thousands of extremely intelligent, well-informed, critical thinkers that are devout Latter-day Saints are all a bunch of simple dupes that have voluntarily blinded themselves in accepting these "absurd beliefs." Now imagine yourself in a televised debate with a Dallin Oaks, Rex Lee, Clayton Christensen, or Ken Jennings -- not a debate about truth per se but simply about the respectability of these beliefs. I think any of these individuals would - without raising their voices -- make a very credible case for their Mormonism that must command the respect of even the most devout atheist. Anyone that assumes the people that disagree with him must be fools . . . well, I think we know what that person is.

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    Aug. 14, 2014 4:33 p.m.

    @Tyler D

    I tell people to read Bushman's "Rough Stone Rolling" and Brodie's "No Man Knows My History" together. They are both good at marshaling the historical information in an interesting way and then you will see the divergence in terms of how they interpret that information.

    By the way, Harold Bloom also said that if you are going to insist in being an empiricist then you are going to be an atheist. That is the problem that I often have with articles like this one. As other people have pointed out, faith should not depend on people like Joseph Smith to be perfect.

  • ThornBirds St.George, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 4:18 p.m.

    Perhaps the study of the life and times of Joseph Smith, and other like men in religious history would be much more interesting for a man, rather than a woman.
    We all know why.

  • Kent Buckner West Valley City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 3:57 p.m.

    Tyler in Idaho: "A Rough and Rolling Stone" by Richard Bushman is an excellent biography of Joseph Smith. Bushman is LDS but his treatment of the subject is very objective. The book was not published by LDS printers and was highly acclaimed at its debut.

  • BigCougar Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 3:49 p.m.

    The premise of mormonism remains incredible though - a God capable of intervention withheld aid (or record thereof)... The revelation given to the prophets was not in relation to scientific advances that could have led to a more comfortable and receptive audience...


    Good discussion. So take what you presented and look at it from the standpoint of a parent. I can do everything for my kids so that they don't have to lift a finger or make a conscious decision but what does that benefit them? The parent who does too much for their kids and doesn't allow them opportunity to grow, learn, make choices (and mistakes) and even learn from the poor ones can be debilitating to their kids and raise non-functioning adults.

    As for scientific advances compare the rate of scientific advancement in history up to the point of the Restoration in 1820 and then the incredibly rapid rate of advancement since. For many it indicates that God was working and inspiring the minds of his children here on earth for the very purpose you referenced, He just showed he has a time and a purpose for those advancements.

  • BigCougar Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 3:35 p.m.

    Great man, sure appreciate the time and thought that Dr Peterson puts into his work. He leaves no stone unturned and is considerably thorough and detailed in his analysis.

  • djofraleigh raleigh, NC
    Aug. 14, 2014 1:42 p.m.

    The want of physical proof of fact for a spiritual belief seems natural, but is, in fact, a natural impossibility. A person needing physical evidence to believe in God is lost without the faith needed. On the other hand, everything about Joseph Smith is open to question beyond the fact that he did live and teach.

    Joseph Smith acted as a prophet, and did not declare himself a God. He was a man, and a man of modern times. He and his life can be examined and questioned, and should be, for he was a fascinating man of his times and his revelations live on in the LDS church. Was he a good man or bad, and is which is his church? Do not base your faith on the man, but the man's revelations. Has Joseph Smith given us better insight to God's will & our salvation? Has he led his people wrong? Is there a better way?

    Seek the truth not just with your eyes, but also by the feeling in your soul.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 14, 2014 1:27 p.m.

    Thanks for all the recs – a bit of lunchtime google searching suggests the Brodie and Bushman books are both highly regarded in terms of historical accuracy. The only difference seems to be one is written by someone who thinks JS was a true prophet and the other does not.

    Since I don’t believe in deities, prophets, magic, etc… I have a pretty good idea where my own bias would line up, but both sound good.

    @Schnee – “is it possible to you that someone who actively seeks the truth can honestly come to a conclusion different then the one you did?”

    Curious if we’ll ever see a scientific study of Moroni’s challenge. The positive results would need to be much greater than 50-50 to be impressive (since the question is an either/or). And the whole “you must read/pray with a believing heart” simply begs the question and is not an objective test at all.

    Do you think the Church keeps records of all the negative results?

    @Redshirt1701 – “get the Joseph Smith Papers”

    With few exceptions (maybe Grant’s memoirs) subjects are usually their own worst (i.e., highly biased) biographers.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 1:06 p.m.

    RE: water rocket. “the teachings of the teachings of Jesus Christ or Joseph Smith because they are the same.”?

    "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one"—Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411).

    (Jesus) “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother(not mothers) and is joined to his Wife, and the two are united into One. Mt 19:5

    (Paul)A bishop then must be blameless, the husband One wife. (1 Tim 3:2)

    RE: REDRedshirt1701,"get the word directly from the man himself". Ok,
    “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.(D.H.C. v 6. P 408,409.,

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 14, 2014 12:33 p.m.

    To "Tyler D" the best source isn't a biography, they will be biased either for him or against him. Go and get the Joseph Smith Papers. Those are his writings. Don't depend on the interpretations of others, get the word directly from the man himself.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    Aug. 14, 2014 12:33 p.m.

    History is rife with examples of dynamic, charismatic men who accomplished great things and were also philanderers and/or had other shortcomings of integrity. Why should Joseph Smith be any exception?

    I agree with slcdenizen. Regardless of the truth about the man's character, there would still be the small problem of the validity of all of the religious claims. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, you still have all your work ahead of you, folks!

    P.S. Why is it that the same god that is purportedly all-powerful can't seem to write or publish his own books? Without fail he has needed an assist from a faulty human.

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 11:15 a.m.

    @John Locke
    " At least be the fair people you all seem to be. Look at both sides if you really want the truth. But, do you really?"

    Speaking of fairness, is it possible to you that someone who actively seeks the truth can honestly come to a conclusion different then the one you did on the matter?

    Aug. 14, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    The terms "ignorant" and "intelligent" address different aspects. One can be highly intelligent (or "clever") and yet ignorant. It is also possible for one to be very well informed yet unintelligent (as in "educated beyond one's intelligence"). The claim that Joseph Smith was originally an ignorant farm boy is reasonable given his lack of access to formal and informal education. The claim that he was a genius is also reasonable given his accomplishments.

    The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not held up until one "worthy enough" should show up on the scene, and that has never been a claim of the restored church. Countless "worthy" people and events prepared the world for the restoration of truth over a period of hundreds of years. The reason is that many people don't really want truth, some to the point that they will go out of their way to attempt to suppress it; it was God's intention to establish His Church one final time in such circumstances that it could not be overpowered or extinguished by those who dislike truth as it had been numerous times throughout human history.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 10:54 a.m.

    "...personal character is crucial to the credibility of his prophetic claims..."

    This simply is another attempt to try and establish legitimacy by injecting faulty reasoning in a positive sense. If this is the standard by which we use to establish prophetic credibility, then why not take seriously other self-professed prophets throughout the world who also have strong personal character and integrity?

    William Branham comes to mind...he was a deeply respected American Christian minister who asserts that on May 7, 1946, an angel appeared to him calling him "to take a gift of divine healing to the peoples of the world." There are upwards of 2 million followers worldwide of Branham and his prophetic messages.

    Branham, Smith, and many others for that matter, have followers who can attest to the personal character of their prophets, but such good character can't reasonably establish the credibility of their prophetic claims if those claims are in diametric opposition.

    It's this type of irrelevant appeal to character as a defining criterion for truth that draws attention away from testing the validity of an actual claim.

  • Bountiful Guy Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 10:51 a.m.

    It's interesting that several have recommended No Man knows my History by Fawn M Brodie as a fair and unbiased book about Joseph Smith. I seem to recall that she claimed that Joseph Smith fathered 11 children that were not Emma's. And over the last years, DNA testing of the descendants of those purported sons proved that Joseph was not the father in every single case. So relying on her book for fairness doesn't seem credible. And to say that there was no bias is equally incredible. Someone above said that she offers no proof, only assertions. That's a pretty fair assessment of her book. But it feeds those who are not interested in facts. I also like how, in contrast to such books, The Joseph Smith Papers examines every document that has been found. They put all the documents out there for people to study and assess. What a great program, in my view. I enjoy studying documents, so I'm glad to have access to them.

  • a_voice_of_reason Woods Cross, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 10:44 a.m.


    Wow! Your incredible insights have caused me to become an atheist! Because if God were real we would all have easy comfortable lives. Food would just grow unhindered. God would have created the Earth with completed, furnished homes. Work would be unnecessary. Our bodies wouldn't require exercise. Healthcare wouldn't be free, because it would be unnecessary with no illness. Adam and Eve would have enjoyed central air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and online banking. It would have been great - because after all the Christian position is that the purpose of this life is that it is easy, right?

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 14, 2014 10:44 a.m.

    The faith of a people is based on what they believe to be true even if parts of it are untrue. The LDS religion is a strong and vibrant faith. To believing Mormons, that’s evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet. ‘By their fruits, ye shall know them’ is the test they cite.

    That the Book of Mormon was transcribed from writings on gold plates can’t be verified any more than it can be proven that Moses received the law engraved on stone tablets by the finger of God, that Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee, or that Mohammed rode up into heaven on the back of his horse. But the human need to believe in such miraculous events as literal happenings is strong enough to make them believe that it was so.

  • John Locke Ivins, , UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    If you have studied (not just read) the scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, it humanizes the prophets of God in many ways. Even those who were truly on the side of the Lord and to whom he spoke (as the scriptures describe, may have made a mistake or two in their lives. They were not perfect. They had been called by the Lord to those positions. Joseph Smith was not perfect; he was called to be a prophet in this dispensation, the latter-days, spoken of by Isaiah. If he had been portrayed as such, he would not have had the credibility he needed to be a prophet, in my mind. Only God and his Son, Jesus Christ are perfect.

    If you are going to read Fawn Brodie's biased history, or Bushman's "Rough Rolling Stone," (I have read both. Brodie comes to her conclusions without any real evidence) among other historians, then read the Book of Mormon to see the other side (with a true desire to seek the truth). At least be the fair people you all seem to be. Look at both sides if you really want the truth. But, do you really?

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 10:29 a.m.

    @Tyler D

    "Curious – does anyone have any recommendations on good (i.e., objective) biographies on Joseph, if there is such a thing? No doubt there are scores of “faith promoting” or anti-Mormon screeds."

    Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 14, 2014 10:01 a.m.

    Tyler D,

    "....does anyone have any recommendations on good (i.e., objective) biographies on Joseph, if there is such a thing?...."

    At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest, I second slcdenizen's recommendation of Brodie's No Man Knows My History. It is the landmark biography of Joseph Smith that changed the landscape of study on his life. It's a good place to start.

    Donna Hill's Joseph Smith, the First Mormon and Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling are also excellent studies.

  • water rocket Magna, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    There have always been builders and tear downers (termites). Even Jesus Christ had detractors who were jealous of his ability to attract followers. The scriptures give one very simple test, and that is: "By their fruits ye shall know them." Their are countless millions who have been blessed by the doctrines of Jesus Christ, as revealed to us directly or through His prophets, it is the same. Since Joseph Smith's detractors (termites) can't tear down the teachings of either Jesus Christ or Joseph Smith (because they are the same) then they try to discredit the messenger. Good luck with that, because all you are doing is destructive in intent, and we all know who the author of that doctrine is, don't we?

  • slcdenizen Murray, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 9:50 a.m.

    @Tyler D

    No Man knows my History by Fawn M Brodie.

  • slcdenizen Murray, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 9:48 a.m.


    "Unfortunately, taking that tack presumes one to be more wise than God, or to have greater knowledge or better character"

    Not smarter than God, just smarter than my fellow humans who perpetuate myths.

    @Bountiful Guy

    "Where did you get that story?"

    The great apostasy was characterized by the absence of the fullness of the gospel. Joseph Smith was worthy enough to restore it, indicating there was 1800 years of men and women unworthy of what Joseph Smith, convicted of disorderly conduct, was. If that is easily digested, then the rantings of Warren Jeffs or Jim Jones should not have been so easily dismissed.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 14, 2014 9:38 a.m.

    Harold Bloom has called Joseph Smith an "authentic religious genius" (he has also said America has produced only two, the other being Emerson), and a person whose "religion-making imagination" is, in Bloom's opinion, unsurpassed in American history.

    I have also seen quotes from early followers saying Joseph was the smartest man they ever knew, which sort of belies the whole “ignorant farm boy” narrative.

    Curious – does anyone have any recommendations on good (i.e., objective) biographies on Joseph, if there is such a thing? No doubt there are scores of “faith promoting” or anti-Mormon screeds.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 14, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    I understand that Mormonism hangs on the truthfulness of the Joseph Smith story - I would surely hope it isn't dependent on a "perfect" Joseph Smith, not the perfection of any of its leaders.

    If the disciples who walked with Jesus had issues with faith from time to time - how is it we expect our own leaders to be any less human. I would hope our faith is not dependent on the perfection of our leaders past or present, but rather the divinity of their message. These two are in fact entirely different things.

    I think a much stronger narrative is how our leaders were able to do what they did, despite being quite human - rather than some idealized version of history that seems most unobtainable or replaceable by those living today.

  • Bountiful Guy Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 9:01 a.m.


    Respectfully, your spin is more incredible than what you label 'incredible'. I know of no religion that claims God offered no intervention or aid or record for 1800 years. Where did you get that story? And since when did God insist that the things he does are accompanied by scientific advances to corroborate his dealings with men? And what religion teaches that Jesus was killed for our sins committed in ignorance? And who insisted that God had to choose someone accused of disorderly conduct to be prophet? Perhaps you have proof that the landowners are gullible people. Or could it be that you label people in order to draw emotion to your story. My, how your imagination doth soar.

  • Commonman HENDERSON, NV
    Aug. 14, 2014 8:51 a.m.

    If one begins from the premise that God could "fix" all mankind's problems despite their agency to act contrary to his will, and scientifically bring them, without any suffering, through a temporal existence, and that the only existence that existed or at least mattered was this current mortal one, I suppose "slcdenizen's" skepticism might be justified.

    However, his construct does not represent the only logical possibility. Let me offer another:

    We came here from an earlier existence, having received instruction about where we were going, and voluntarily chose to enter a time of testing in order to prize the good. Provision was made to redeem us from the effects of wrong choices, if we wanted it, so that we could return to the presence of the wise God, who made the plan, with newly acquired skills, to enable us to experience the profound life that he lives. God has provided revelation so that we might learn and follow that plan.

    I learn more by opposition and trials than when life floats along without significant opposition. From this framework,Joseph Smith's revelations and teachings shine brightly indeed.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    There is a lot that said about him. but the fact is: LDS people are kind.

    Aug. 14, 2014 8:44 a.m.

    Thanks for bringing to our attention the scholarly work that provides a more complete picture of the character of Joseph Smith, Dr. Peterson.

    @slcdensizen - it's one thing to make assumptions about how God should have dealt with humans, or about how you or I might behave if we were God. Unfortunately, taking that tack presumes one to be more wise than God, or to have greater knowledge or better character. Each of your objections can be easily answered, but that is not the pivotal question nor a fruitful path in making a personal determination of whether God is real or whether Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet. The direct approach is what God recommends, and I expect there is no other way to discover God unless and until he might suggest some other method (e.g. logical argument or scientific discovery) given that he is omniscient and omnipotent and we are not. Of course life seems easier if one can but rationalize away God's existence; however, my experience is that life is more joyful and purposeful if one makes the attempt to live by God's commandments.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 14, 2014 8:34 a.m.

    Latter-day Saint faith need not be contingent on the character of Joseph Smith.

  • slcdenizen Murray, UT
    Aug. 14, 2014 6:58 a.m.

    This defense may very well be legitimate and Joseph's conviction was discharged at a later point. The premise of mormonism remains incredible though - a God capable of intervention withheld aid (or record thereof) for a hundred thousand while humans lived short, violent lives until the occasional prophet who was met with wide rejection. The revelation given to the prophets was not in relation to scientific advances that could have led to a more comfortable and receptive audience, but rather he gave hints about sending Jesus who would inevitably be killed for our sins committed in ignorance. He established a church, then due to it's fragility the truth was lost and God again waited 1800 years (?!) in order to call a young man who had been accused of disorderly conduct for claiming, like many others, to find native american treasure on gullible landowners property. But the charge is now "widely" considered as discharged... ok folks